[Dateline: Geneva | Author: UNECE]
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) concluded its 63rd session, held on 30 March-1 April 2009 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, which was dedicated to two issues at the core of the UNECE activities: economic development in the region and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Delegates also reviewed UNECE reforms and the "Environment for Europe" process.
Attendees reaffirmed the strategic UNECE reform directions and recommitted the renewed support of its Member States to the work of UNECE, taking the specific needs of its countries with economies in transition into account.
The debates highlighted the need to reduce trade barriers to mitigate the effects of the economic crisis and stressed the role that the UNECE can play in increasing trade facilitation and the use of international standards in order to foster intraregional trade, and thus contribute to reducing the risk of new protectionism.
The role of the transport sector in contributing to faster recovery was also widely acknowledged, both via public investment in infrastructures and an increase in regional trade. In this context, UNECE’s transport legal instruments, technical norms and standards provide an effective framework to remove bottlenecks and promote interoperability in the region.
Finally it was noted that once the crisis is over, many countries will face an immense challenge in bringing budgets back into balance. Addressing the long-term sustainability of pension regimes, in view of Europe’s demographic situation, will be crucial for restoring sound finances. In this regard, it will be vital to increase the participation of women in the labour market. The availability of more gender disaggregated statistics would therefore allow member countries to better adjust policymaking.
Climate change mitigation and adaptation
Climate change mitigation was at the heart of the debates throughout the session given the cross-sectoral dimension of the phenomenon and the importance of investments in green technologies (estimated at 12 percent of the total in the United States, 13 percent in Germany, 38 percent in China and up to 80 percent in the Republic of Korea) in the up to US$2.8 trillion stimulus packages approved in various countries all over the world in the last months.
The debates highlighted that the twin economic and environmental crises presented a unique opportunity for adopting a new paradigm of sustainable growth. However, the current window of opportunity will not last very long given the need to plan the huge investments which will be necessary over the next 20 years to green the economy.
The need to promote energy security, an important concern in the region, was stressed as well as the need to promote policies aiming at reducing energy dependence. UNECE’s legal instruments, including the multilateral environment agreements, were seen as important tools in reaching these objectives.
The Commission endorsed the “Environment for Europe” reform plan as developed by the Committee on Environmental Policy on 29 January 2009.
The Commission elected Belgium as Chair and Serbia and Kyrgyzstan as Vice-Chairs of the sixty-fourth session.
In his concluding remarks, Ján KUBIŠ, Executive Secretary, stressed that “the solution to the current difficulties is dependent on increased cooperation amongst member States. The constructive dialogue we have heard during these three days is encouraging and will hopefully be followed up in other political forums in the coming months.”